Murugha matha seer’s bail plea in alleged child sexual abuse case adjourned again

Special Court to ascertain absconding junior pontiff's age to decide whether he has to be tried as a minor.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Sep 13, 2022 | 8:34 PMUpdatedSep 13, 2022 | 8:34 PM

Murugha matha seer Shivamurthy Sharanaru (Supplied)

The Chitradurga District Sessions Court on Tuesday, 13 September, adjourned the bail plea hearing of Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru, the head pontiff of the Murugha matha, arrested for alleged sexual assault of two minor girls, to Wednesday.

The adjournment was to enable the prosecution and the counsel for the two girls to file objections to the bail.

Counsel for the girls, senior advocate Srinivas, told South First that, on Tuesday, his team met with the victims at the Bala Mandir in Chitradurga and recorded their statements.

“As of today, the girls have deposed before four entities/authorities, and their statements have been consistent so far all the four times,” Srinivas said.

4 statements by minor girls

The girls initially recorded their statements at the Mysore-based Odanadi NGO, and then before members of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).

It was on the basis of the second statement that an FIR was registered under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in Mysore, and subsequently transferred to the jurisdictional Chitradurga rural police.

The girls then recorded their statement before the police under Section 161 and then once again before a magistrate under Section 164.

The girls, aged 15 and 16, have confided in members of the NGO and the counsel, who have lent them full support legally and financially and have even instilled confidence in them that they will get justice for whatever has happened to them, Srinivas said.

Bail please of other accused

The bail pleas of the fourth accused, advocate Gangadharaiah, and fifth accused, matha secretary Paramashivaiah, were adjourned to Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the bail plea hearing and arguments of the junior pontiff, who has claimed to be a minor, has been adjourned to Thursday.

The Chitradurga rural police maintained that they have arrested only three accused in the case — the seer and hostel warden Rashmi, who are in judicial custody, and advocate Gangadharaiah, who has to be issued summons a second time for further inquiries.

The junior pontiff as well as the matha secretary Paramashivaiah are absconding even as their bail petitions are being heard by the district court.

Counsel for the POCSO victims, Srinivas, told South First that the bail plea of the junior pontiff cannot come under the Special Court’s jurisdiction as he claims to be a 17-year-old.

Absconding junior pontiff a minor?

“According to the junior pontiff’s Aadhar card, he is 17 years and six months of age, in which case he has to depose before the Juvenile Justice Board and record his statements under section 34(2) of the POCSO Act as he is named accused in the case,” Srinivas pointed out.

In this case, even before his bail plea can be heard, the Special Court has determine how old the junior pontiff is. If he turns out to be a minor between 16 and 18, his statements need to be recorded under Section 2(13) of the Juvenile Justice Act.

However, a team of psychiatrists and counsellors would be submitting a report to the court on whether the accused could be considered mature enough to understand that he was committing a crime or not.

Only after studying the report will the Special Court take a call on whether the junior pontiff should be prosecuted as a minor or an adult, Srinivas said.